For more almost forty years, Jamaica’s Barn Theatre was a crucial part of the development of a Caribbean theatre that extended beyond the Europhile elite. When it began in 1965, there were scarcely any plays written by Caribbean playwrights to perform. By its presence The Barn encouraged the work of dramatists such as Dennis Scott, Ashani Harrison and Carmen Tipling, and above all the work of Trevor Rhone, with whom Yvonne Brewster enjoyed a close if sometimes tumultuous theatrical relationship.
Yvonne Brewster's splendid retelling of the making of the Barn captures the phenomenon of youthful ambition, creative optimism and rollicking intellectual excitement that characterized the spirit of young people fired with the zeal of imagining a postcolonial self as distinct from a colonized self. The men and women who started the Barn were shaped by Jamaica’s independence or the idea of it, though their spirit was as much shaped by the giddy youth culture of the sixties blossoming in London, where some were trained, as by developments in Jamaica where ska, reggae and Rasta were coming together in a not always lucid mix to create a sense of possibility. As much as it is an invaluable record of the plays performed in the context of a changing Jamaican society, Vaulting Ambition is an engaging and affectionate account of the sometimes larger than life personalities who were involved and the often difficult material circumstances in which theatre was made. Above all, the memoir gives us the inimitable voice of Yvonne Brewster, raconteur extraordinaire.